22 Kleenexes

tissues22 kleenexes lay strewn on the floor, the culmination of two weeks of struggle, frustration, and battle. That’s not an exaggeration; I counted them. Financial pressures, unfulfilled longings, broken teeth (yep, this happened), a first date that probably won’t lead to a second, the suffering of people I love: lots of “small” things add up to make a big thing.

This morning, tears flowed freely, unable to be stemmed. The pile of tissues grew, the wrestle fierce. I also battled anger. I was angry at myself for feelings of jealousy, angry that I could not rejoice in others’ good gifts. Crying was a better alternative to throwing dishes; we all know I have that impulse.

I’ve been here before. So many times. You’ve been here with me, and I know my words sound familiar.

But my heart struggles to believe what my mind knows is true. 

This week I heard it said, “Sorrowful tragedy sets the stage for surprising triumph.” (Platt) My mind says yes. But my heart is unsure. People tell me I’m strong, brave, and resilient, yet I’m not the super saint who never doubts, never questions. Granted, most waves have smoothed out, but even two years later, there are days I’m tempted to shout at God.

“When is enough, enough? How long must I be held to the fire?”

“For He is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver…” (Malachi 3:2-3)

Sometimes I feel like He’s forgotten me there.

I want God to relent in His severity. Being refined is a mercy, but a difficult one, nonetheless. I know the process creates beauty, increases value, and removes the dross. But sometimes I don’t care.

Sometimes I want to tell him I’m mad at him. Refining hurts.

But the words never come. Praise God, they never come. Rather, He replaces them with tears of sorrow.

“O my dear Father, how could I ever be angry with you? Who am I to be angry with you?”

So I cry a lot. I preach to myself. I bow in surrender and plead with Holy Spirit to intercede for me. And God always meets with me and brings me back. I tell myself the truth, and the Holy Spirit lodges it deep within.

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair, persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed…” (2 Corinthians 4:7-9)

This treasure. God has seen fit to wrap the treasure of treasures, the Gospel, in the weakness of human flesh. Why? It reveals that the surpassing power and effectiveness of the gospel belongs to God, and not to me.

Yet for some reason, I’ve been made a vessel to carry treasure. My weaknesses and inadequacies magnify God’s strength and perfection.

What a crazy paradox! But there is more.

  • Afflicted, but not crushed
  • Perplexed, but not driven to despair
  • Persecuted, but not forsaken
  • Struck down, but not destroyed

There have been moments in the journey in which I’ve fought despair, where I have felt crushed, and destroyed, standing on the edge of a precipice about to jump.

But here is reality. I have not been crushed. I have not been destroyed. I have not been driven to despair. And I never will be.

I’ve fought despair, but Jesus always wins for me.

He was destroyed. He was forsaken. He met despair square in the eye. He was utterly crushed. This was the cross of my Lord.

As the passage continues, likewise I can say,

“So we do not lose heart. Though our outer self is wasting away, our inner self is being renewed day by day. For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison, as we look not to the things that are seen, but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.”(2 Corinthians 4:16-18)

More paradoxes.

  • Outer self wasting away, inner self renewed day by day
  • Momentary affliction, eternal weight of glory
  • Things seen, things unseen
  • Transient, eternal

Momentary. Permanent.

Affliction doesn’t always feel light and momentary, but with eternity in view, it’s a mere glimmer, a speck in God’s grand plan of redemption. God’s far surpassing power is beyond all human control or fathoming.

And He is preparing me for an eternal weight of glory. An eternal weight of glory. I don’t think I can fully comprehend that.

Therefore, by the power that raised Christ from the dead, the power that dwells in this immensely weak jar of clay, I can choose to believe.

I choose to surrender.

I choose to love the life God’s given me.

I choose to know He’s good.

I choose to believe there will be triumph in eternity AND in this life.

God triumphs amid human weakness.  Sometime I think I can’t bear anymore fire, but He has not forgotten I’m there. He watches the silver intently, holding to the flame just long enough for it to be perfected.

I tell my heart to believe what my mind knows is true.

And by grace, it does.

“Sorrowful tragedy sets the stage for surprising triumph.” Watch the video from The Gospel Coalition here- God’s Goodness in Your Pain. Believe me, it’s worth the nine minutes! counsel

Reclaiming #Blessed

HgZuGu3gSD6db21T3lxm_San-ZenoneBlessed. It’s a word that often makes my skin crawl.

“I’m so blessed.” I cringe at the statement, hoping no one else can see the involuntary shudder.

Blessed is a perfectly biblical word, so what’s the big deal? Aren’t you being cynical? Surely, you’re just bitter because others have what you want.

Yes, sometimes it’s hard to rejoice, but there’s no cynicism here.

I cringe because “blessed” seems to be merely a trend, a cliche, another word hijacked of its rich meaning.


“We just closed on our new house. #blessed”
“What a beautiful baby! #blessed”
“Praise God! My husband got a big promotion. #blessed”
“My awesome hubby just gave me the most gorgeous just because flowers. #blessed.”

Yes, blessed indeed.

“I just got diagnosed with cancer. #blessed”
“I’m so lonely I could scream. #blessed”
“We lost it all in an instant. #blessed”
“My husband died. #blessed”

Blessed? In these circumstances? I can see your mind reeling…

You’ll want to read the rest. Check out the full post at Intentional By Grace

Join me. #ReclaimBlessed

God gives bread, not stones.

change definitionShe stood in worship overcome with emotion, seeing her dreams played out in the lives of others. Not just any dreams, they were the ones closest to her heart–the dreams. But the joy she had for her friends was real. Her excitement wasn’t false.

Still it hurt. Sometimes joy and sorrow mingled in a dance between emotion and choice. Sometimes it was hard to “rejoice with those who rejoice.” Sometimes the woman wondered when people would rejoice with her instead of weep.

“Why does it feel like I’m the only one with unfulfilled dreams? Why does everyone else receive good gifts?” The thought came unbidden. She’d placed her dreams at Jesus’ feet over and over, and knew it was the best place for them.

“Lord take my plans. They’re yours. Do with them what you will. I want you more than these. Your dreams for me are better.”

She meant it. The surrender was real. But it wasn’t a one-time, magical act, for so quickly did her grubby, little hand reach down and take them back. She wrestled with her emotions, and remembered that sometimes, one must choose to rejoice.

A song played softly in the background.

“All to Jesus I surrender, all to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him, in His presence daily live.

All to Jesus I surrender; humbly at His feet I bow,
Worldly pleasures all forsaken; take me, Jesus, take me now.”

Did anyone else recognize the gravity of those words? Did she even believe them? Did she know that Jesus was enough when someone else received the gift she longed for?

Tenderly, she responded. “Yes Lord, this is true. You are enough. Again, I open my hands to you. Again I place my dreams before you.”

Later she weighed the thought she’d had, “Why does it feel like I’m the only one with unfulfilled dreams?”

“Open your eyes. Look up. Lift up your head and observe.”

Another month came and went. Another month a friend faced the disappointment of childlessness. 

Someone’s father battled cancer. 

Others longed for the intimacy of marriage. 

Another lost a job. 

A pastor and his wife bled for their church.

A woman wept quietly, grieving the child she wouldn’t get to hold. Miscarriages are often lonely things.

A marriage crumbled; a husband unfaithful.

And so the woman understood that longing and unfulfilled dreams were all around her. Her thinking was faulty, her perspective distorted. She wasn’t the only one who thought bread was really stone.

“For everyone who asks receives, and the one who seeks finds, and the one who knocks it will be opened. Or which one of you, if his son asks him for bread will he give a stone? Or if he asks for a fish, will he give him a serpent? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him” (Matthew 7)

When a son needs eggs and fish, will his father give him serpents and scorpions? (Luke 11)

No good father would do such a thing.

She chose to plant her mind firmly in truth. She took an active stance, and talked to herself rather than merely listened. And this is what she said.

God is good and does good. He does not give stones to His children.

She said it again. He does not give stones to His children!

Therefore, unfulfilled dreams and unmet expectations are bread. As a refiner’s fire creates purified, costly silver, so do unfulfilled dreams accomplish God’s purpose– that His children be conformed to the image of His Son. (Romans 8)

She needed Jesus to change her definition of what is good, of what is bread.

If God went so far to give the Bread of Life, His own Son, will He not always give bread to those He loves and calls His own? If earthly fathers give good gifts to their children, how much more does a perfect, all-powerful, all-knowing, all-wise Father give good gifts?

So, she rejoiced with those who rejoice. She thanked Her Father for good gifts. She thanked Him for unmet expectations and unfulfilled dreams. She thanked Him for bread that makes her more like Christ..